Jonathan King wins prestigious HRA award

Jonathan King wins prestigious HRA award

Long-serving DCDR volunteer Jonathan King was nominated for the Heritage Railway Association’s Young Volunteer of the Year award – and he won!

Jonathan set off for Brighton on Saturday morning along with fellow DCDR volunteer Morgan Young. Despite both being relatively young men, both serve on the DCDR Board of Directors and both are long-serving, hard-working volunteers.

Getting to Brighton just in time after heavy delays caused by fog at the airport, they headed straight to the Hilton Metropole for the Heritage Railway Association’s annual awards.

Before long, the dinner had started and Jonathan and Morgan found themselves sitting with Lord Faulkner himself (the namesake and patron of the Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer of the Year Award) as well as representatives of the National Wagon Preservation Group, the Chasewater Railway, and the Keith and Dufftown Railway. As it happens, this would turn out to be quite the lucky table with all railways sat around it taking home an award!

Jonathan King holding his HRA award plaque, and sitting next to Lord Faulkner of the HRA. Both are dressed in formal suits and are grinning broadly.

Jonathan and the HRA’s Lord Faulkner, all smiles after the announcement

Following speeches by HRA Chief Executive Steve Oates, compere Paul Lewin, and special guest speaker Francis Bourgeois, the awards got underway. With Young Volunteer of the Year handed out towards the end of the ceremony, we waited with bated breath as the other awards were handed out to some very deserving railways for a range of amazing restoration projects and personnel.

Finally, the moment arrived and Lord Faulkner was invited up on stage to present the Young Volunteer Award. Jonathan faced some stiff competition from volunteers at the Welshpool and Llanfair, Peak Rail, and the Avon Valley Railway. Whilst any one of them would have been a deserving winner, in the end Jonathan’s name was the one in the envelope and we could not have been more excited for him!

Jonathan King and Morgan Young posing with celebrity trainspotter Francis Bourgeois. All three are dressed in formal suits and are smiling. Francis is giving a 'thumbs up'.

Jonathan and Morgan with celebrity trainspotter Francis Bourgeois

After getting plenty of photos and congratulating the other successful railways, Jonathan and Morgan were able to get a quick selfie and chat with the legendary Francis Bourgeois, who expressed his sympathy for DCDR following the flood. As it turns out, he’s quite fond of the Irish Traction Group’s A Class locomotive!

As the news of Jonathan’s victory filtered back to Ireland, congratulatory messages and ‘donations’ to fund celebrations rolled in. All that was left to do now was for Jonathan and Morgan to crack open a bottle of Prosecco, which they shared with their new friends at the Welshpool and Llanfair. Celebrations lasted well into the small hours and it will probably come as no surprise that the DCDR delegation took things easy the next day!

Morgan and Jonathan standing on the beach at Brighton with two volunteers from the Volk's Electric Railway. The Volk's volunteers are wearing hi viz clothing. They are all standing beside one of the railway's trains.

Morgan and Jonathan with two of the volunteers from Volk’s Electric Railway – also HRA award winners

On Sunday they rounded off the trip with a visit to the Volk’s Electric Railway, who were also in high spirits after winning Railway of the Year the night before. Jonathan and Morgan were treated to a return journey along the length of the line as well as an extensive behind-the-scenes tour of the railway’s workshop and headquarters. Congratulations to the Volk’s on their victory, and a huge thank you to their staff and volunteers – especially Ian and Adrian – for accommodating Jonathan and Morgan. And with that it was time for them to head home, arriving back in Belfast late on Sunday evening after a fantastic weekend.

Jonathan’s victory comes as a very welcome spot of good news after our recent flooding, but more importantly is well-deserved recognition of his tireless dedication and contributions to the railway over the years. A huge congratulations to Jonathan, and well done to everyone else at this year’s awards.

Generous support from Gwilli Railway

Generous support from Gwilli Railway

A big thank you to Jonathan and Samuel Turner from the Gwili Steam Railway in Wales, who saw the devastation that the flooding had on the news and had a whip-round around their volunteers for our Flood Relief Appeal.

Jonathan travelled over to Northern Ireland to personally present the cheque to vice-chairman Mike Beckett and membership secretary Innis Mennie last weekend, where they got shown round the lovely ongoing mess tidy up.

We’re very touched by the support of our Welsh friends, and hope to show off the railway in a better state to them soon!

Diesel Gala Cancelled

Diesel Gala Cancelled

It is with deep regret that we have to cancel our planned diesel gala event planned for January 6th, 2024.

This is due to unprecedented levels of flooding in Downpatrick town and the surrounding countryside, which you may have seen on the TV and online news.

An overview of the station and wider railway area showing the extent of the flooding. [Lecale drone video/photos]

This is the worst flooding the railway and the town has ever experienced, and the damage is significant. All of our diesel locomotives and railcars have been submerged in water for some time. This means water may have entered axleboxes, traction motors and other aspects of the locomotives. It will take us many months to restore the locomotives, and we are braced for very bad news because it is possible that some may be beyond our ability to repair. We will not know until the waters fully subside and full inspections can take place. This all takes time.

Water level on the bogies of diesel loco 146, which rose above the axleboxes and traction motors

146, G617, A39R, 80 class power car 90, and the Wickham railcar have all been in deep water, and it is simply not possible for them to be ready in January. Additionally, power car 69 in the workshop, under restoration, has also been submerged. The steam locos are also partly submerged but are not as complex to recover as more ‘modern’ traction is.

The high water mark on loco G617

450 class railcar 458 has been luckier, and escaped water rising above the axleboxes everywhere except the driving trailer cab end, but we still need to inspect it and dry it out fully to prevent possible major damage.

On top of this, all of the track outside of the station area remains deeply submerged and we are unable to inspect it and ascertain what work is needed, or if any major damage has occurred. 

Tracks outside the station premises under deep floodwater

As if that wasn’t enough, the locomotive sheds, workshop and carriage gallery have also been under deep water, 4-5 feet at times. Spares, tools, and all manner of other things we need for the railway have been damaged or destroyed. Damage will run into tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds.

With all of the above in mind, we have no other option but to cancel the diesel gala. We are truly very sorry about this.

Please be patient, as the refund process takes time and we are very busy with the clean up and administration at this very difficult time.

Our volunteers are heartbroken at what can only be described as a disaster for the railway, and while we are determined to build back and open again, we have a massive task ahead of us and need all the support and understanding the wider community can offer.

 We have faced major hurdles before and have overcome these. With the hard work of our volunteers, hopefully we can do the same once again and in due course we will see a return to better times.

 Thank you for your understanding and support at this time.

The high water mark on the battery boxes of an 80 class power car

Major flooding in Downpatrick

Major flooding in Downpatrick

Our railway has been hit by major flooding at the end of October and start of November 2023.

The flood waters have totally overwhelmed the railway and much of the centre of Downpatrick, leaving the railway tracks, yard, buildings and rolling stock submerged in deep flood water and much damage has been incurred.

We understand that you may be concerned about ticket bookings for the Lapland Express and also the 6th January 2024 diesel gala. Please be assured that nobody will lose out on their bookings, but we must expect disruption in the coming weeks with some events impacted.

Our team is very small and run by volunteers in their spare time, so we please ask for your patience when waiting for any responses to queries. As it is likely that phone lines will be unavailable, the best way to contact us is via email:

You can follow this webpage for regular updates

Lapland Express tickets on sale

Lapland Express tickets on sale

Our Lapland Express trains are on sale now, with loads of interest so far you should definitely book your places early to avoid disappointment!

This year we have added an extra date, so Santa’s trains are running on NINE DAYS over five weekends, with Saturday 23rd December as well as the preceding four Saturdays and Sundays:

  • Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th November
  • Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd December
  • Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th December
  • Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th December
  • Saturday 23rd December

Trains depart Downpatrick at 12:00, 13:15, 14:30, 15:55 and 17:10 though do check because not all trains run on all days.

We have tweaked the age groups slightly this year to 0-5 and 6+ years, with a new range of gifts from Santa. Your tickets will get everyone in your group a hot chocolate and cookie, though alternatives are available and we do provide ‘free from’ options for adults and kids with food intolerances – contact us after booking to arrange this.

Book those tickets now – head over to our Santa page to find out more details.

Will you be running a ‘quiet train’ for kids with ASD?

Yes, we absolutely will be doing this. This will be by application only and we will announce this in due course via our mailing list and Facebook page. Sign up, and/or follow us!


SuperTrain FLASH SALE!

SuperTrain FLASH SALE!


HOLY SUPERTRAIN, BATMAN! Calling all citizens of Gotham and beyond, we’re offering a FLASHtastic deal! Get a dazzling 25% off on all ticket prices for this weekend only!

Join us for an action-packed journey this August and as it’s Friday, the legendary superhero with lightning-fast speed and a heart of gold, The Flash has insisted on having a Flash Sale!

This August 12th, the devilish duo Clown Prince of Crime and the ever-unpredictable Harley Quinn, known for their terrifying brand of mayhem, are trying to make a clean getaway onboard the train and we have to stop them – as there’s no telling what chaos might unfold if they get their hands on the train’s controls! But there’s one thing the devious duo haven’t counted on: Gotham’s caped crusader and his friend are following them here, ready to put a stop to their fiendish plot. Help Batman, the Caped Crusader, and his Justice League allies Wonder Woman, the Amazonian Princess, and the Flash, the Scarlet Speedster, tackle the wily schemes of The Joker and Harley Quinn. Keep your eyes peeled for their devious traps as our heroes use their cunning skills to save the day.

This is going to be a tough mission, and we’re going to need all the help we can get. Join us in heart-pounding escapades as we battle villains and champions justice for all! Unleash your superhero spirit and hop aboard our fantastical Supertrain as we zip through the scenic landscapes of Gotham, County Down! Be a part of the action and witness the epic showdown between good and evil! Come dressed as your favourite superhero or supervillain! Will you be the hero Gotham deserves or the villain it fears?

It’s time to get your tickets and join our superhero brigade on the most action-packed train journey! Let’s unite to bring justice and excitement to the world of Supertrain Showdown! 💥

Visit the online ticket office here